As I sat in my garden this afternoon one of my kids ran past, brandishing a sword, shirtless, and completely lost in an imaginative game. The sword was being wielded, he was making swooshing noises, and he was completely embodying whoever it was he was ‘being’. A familiar sight in this house.
And in that moment, I realised just how much time young children spend ‘being’. So many of their games start with “who do you want to be?” – be it a Power Ranger, a Princess or some computer generated monster – they spend a crazy amount of time trying this stuff out. They act out how the Blue Power Ranger speaks, fights and interacts with the world. They create scenarios for him to put his ‘powers’ into action. They imagine what it would be like to walk a mile in his shoes. And then they move on, and the next day, or the next game, they’re ‘being’ Steve from Minecraft, Emmet from the Lego movie, or whichever Premiership football player is flavour of the month.
Because they get, in the simplest and most intuitive way, that who they choose to ‘be’ in any given moment is limitless. They get that in no way do they have to show up for life as a single version of themselves. They get that they have ‘powers’ beyond their wildest dreams. And the consequence?
Kids are magnificent creatures.
Kids show up for life with an openness and a curiosity that we adults look at in wonder – horrified and delighted by their propensity for asking questions that make the adults around them shift uncomfortably in their seats. Kids have the ability to penetrate right to the heart of the matter, because they’re not editing their curiosity in order to be socially appropriate.
And the consequence of that is that they learn – crazy amounts. They learn the heck out of life. Their development is remarkable – year on year, parents and relations sit back amazed, not only by the physical changes, but also the attitudinal, social and emotional ones that seem to happen in abundance month on month, year on year. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
And what occurred to me, as I watched my shirtless, sword wielding son in the garden this afternoon, is that at some point we adults forget the learning that’s available to us when we allow ourselves to think about who we’re ‘being’ in the world. We forget that we are as at liberty as my 5 year old son is to try ‘being’ someone else. I’m not suggesting that we stride down the street embodying Richard Branson, donning a fake beard, and trying to imitate his voice (necessarily). But I am suggesting that if Richard Branson is someone you admire, or Miranda Hart, or your local shop keeper, why the heck shouldn’t you try ‘being’ them for an hour, or a meeting, or a day? Why, simply because of your age, should you hold back from exploring which aspects of yourself get expressed when you tackle your emails with a Richard Branson energy, or bash out a blog post with an air of Carrie Bradshaw? You don’t have to announce it to your co-workers or your spouse. No one need know but you. But surely its worth a try.
Because frankly, kids are onto something. Think about the unapologetic magnificence of a 5 year old, and ask yourself why on earth you wouldn’t want to express some of that magnificence in your adult life.
As an adult I think I unconsciously rejected that kind of imaginative exploration – thinking it was for children. Thinking (wrongly) that their need to develop was very different to mine. That as an adult I had somehow signed up to my own singular way of ‘being’, and was somehow committed to that for the rest of time.
And then I became a coach. And discovered the transformative effect of exploring, and playing with who you’re ‘being’ in any given moment. And realised that we adults have as much choice about who we want to ‘be’ as a 5 year old does. It’s just that we forget that we do.
We forget that our adult selves still have a ton of developing to do as well. We forget that we’re still every bit as magnificent as we were when we were 5. That we are every bit as curious and imaginative.
We just need to be given permission to rediscover that and put it into practice.
And so here I am, giving you that permission.
Throw off your shirt, if the mood takes you.
Pretend to fight an imaginary predator, if you fancy it.
Or simply sit and let your imagination run wild, and ‘be’ whoever the heck it is you want to ‘be’ today.
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Did this resonate with you? Are you interested in applying the perspectives here to your own life? Work with me, and we can really get into it. I love talking about this stuff even more than I love writing about it (and that’s a lot).